When the Salesman Gets His Foot in the Door

It’s probably a dated image but I remember door-to-door salesmen. Today salesmen are more likely to come round via phone, email, or pop-up ads. I guess they still come round but things have changed enough that it’s just a little unnerving to have a stranger knocking on ones door any more. One of the first tricks the salesman used was to get his foot in the door. If he could physically wedge his foot in the door then it was more difficult for the (back then) lady of the house to close the door and get rid of him.

Salesmen aren’t the only one’s who want to get a foot in the door. The Federal Visionists are also peddling something (revisions of the Reformed faith) that several ecclesiastical households (the URCs, the OPC, the PCA, the RCUS, and others) have considered and rejected. Nevertheless, the FV salesmen keep knocking.

In the Pacific NW presbytery of the PCA there is a FV salesman named Peter Leithart. He serves a CREC congregation in Moscow, ID, ground zero for the FV movement. The Presbytery has not exactly covered itself in glory thus far in handling Dr Leithart’s case. As soon as the PCA General Assembly rejected the FV in Nine Points in the summer of 2007 Dr Leithart announced his intention to challenge that decision in the Pacific NW presbytery. Here we are three years later and rounding third toward 2011 and presbytery has appointed the Rev Mr Jason Stellman to prosecute the case against Dr Leithart.

On its face the case should be simple. Dr Leithart advocates the FV. The PCA has rejected the FV. Therefore the presbytery should say to Dr Leithart that he is not welcome to advocate the FV doctrines as a minister in the PCA. You might be wondering why, since Dr Leithart is laboring, as they say, “out of bounds” (with the permission of presbytery) in the CREC, he doesn’t simply seek dismissal to the CREC where the FV is not only tolerated but celebrated?

Good question. Jason Stellman reports the answer:

He also mentioned that his rationale for refusing to leave the PCA includes his hope that the verdict, if in his favor, will go a long way in aiding other Federal Visionists in the PCA who have come under attack for their views.

There it is. Leithart is to be the pioneer, i.e., the one who paves the way for others, for the FV theology in the PCA. One can see immediately what this means: 1) Leithart is an advocate of the FV (which doctrines have been rejected categorically already at GA); 2) There are other advocates of the FV doctrine in the PCA who, if Leithart is convicted, also should face ecclesiastical proceedings and sanction. In literary terms Leithart seeks to become the hero of the FV movement. If he wins, then the FV shall have not only put its collective foot in the door but it shall have gained standing in the PCA—despite the unequivocal ruling of the 2007 GA.

The question is before the presbytery. Shall the Pacific NW presbytery become the gateway for the rehabilitation of the FV doctrine in the PCA? Shall the PCA be confessional or shall the PCA be a collection of latitudinarian predestinarian “evangelicals?”

Does baptism create a temporary election, union, justification etc received by grace and retained by grace and cooperation with grace or is it the sign and seal of the covenant of grace? Are there two kinds of election, union, justification etc or one kind only? Is justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, on the ground of his righteousness alone imputed or partly on the basis of Christ’s righteousness and partly on the basis of Spirit-wrought sanctity and through faith and faithfulness? These are the questions raised by the FV salesman at the door. The PCA has said “No,” but does the PacNW presbytery have the will to say to the FV once and for all: “I said ‘No’ now get out!”?